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08 Jun 2017
by Rob Hughes
The problems you didn't know existed
Below the Surface Special - our resident diving expert Rob Hughes attacks the problems you didn't even know existed

Anglers often say to me, “It must be brilliant seeing what’s down there. It’s a massive advantage and you must learn loads.” They are absolutely bang-on with that comment. However, just like watching the news, I learn a lot of bad stuff as well as good stuff, and the world below the surface isn’t all pink candy floss and cuddly teddy bears. Sometimes there’s bad news. Actually, quite frequently there’s bad news, and my enthusiasm sometimes sinks when I cast out and feel the lead down as I can be pretty certain I know exactly what’s out there – and that there are very few ways of getting around what I am fairly sure that I have to get around.

In the main though, the problems that we face are usually pretty simple to solve, but without the aid of dive gear herein lies the issue. The biggest problem is that we don’t know what the problem is. If we did, we would be able to solve it fairly simply most of the time. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Round balls on here are only going one way

This first example is impossible to see or experience without dive kit but bear it in mind at this time of year. If you think about it though, it is actually quite obvious.

I was in Manor (on the Linear complex) a couple of summers ago in July and there was a massive thunderstorm. I mean a massive one, and shed loads of water came down in a very short period of time. Now the lake water was in the early 20-degrees and the rainwater was in the upper singles. Normal rainfall mixes with the lake water and doesn’t have a massive effect other than a slight cooling of the lake and a freshening up with added oxygen. Thunder deluge rain has a very different effect. So much water comes in that is does not warm slowly, it sinks to the bottom of the lake and sits on the bottom, cooling the bottom until it warms slowly back up to lake temperature.

Low-lying weed like this is nigh-on impossible to track without a grappler

I noticed it as I could feel a massive difference with my fingers when they were in the bottom inch or so of water. If an inch of cold rain falls in an hour (as can happen with storms) it will sink straight to the deck and will cool the stones on the deck and they take longer to warm up than the water above. The effect was that the bottom of the lake was massively cooler than the upper layers. I picked up a few of the stones and commented on the coldness of them. If you think that this might be the case when you are fishing next, feel the temperature of your lead. If it feels significantly colder than it should, try a bit further up in the water.

Interestingly, around the complex nothing was caught on the deck for a couple of days. However, Zigs were very effective indeed. Now it doesn’t take the brain of Einstein to put two and two together and work out why, so keep that nugget of info on the back burner for next time it rains heavily.

There’s always a way, as long as you know what the problem is

Now for one that is a little easier to find out about, but which can be very easily overlooked.

The margins of some lakes can be very steep, as can bars. Fishing the backside of a bar or on the marginal slope gives brilliant presentation and they are great fish patrol routes. However, applying a very basic bit of common sense, round balls roll, and if you bait round balls onto a slope they will almost certainly roll down the slope and end up either at the bottom or caught up somewhere on the way down. I’ve seen it so many times. A simple bit of exploration with a float will tell you what the slope is like and whether the baits are likely to roll. If they are, chop them in half. Simple as that. Imagine having found what you believe is a great spot, then baiting up with round baits only to have them roll down the slope and end up 4ft further down and miles form your hookbait. You’ve actually made your job harder.

A grappler style lead will show you exactly what’s down there on the lakebed

A scientific but simplistic approach

I’m very much for the simple solution approach – e.g. if it rolls, stop it being round (that goes for leads too remember!); if it’s too hot, make it cold, and vice versa. In my mind, nature has the answer to everything (think heron and camouflage – grey is best for out in the country) and the addition of a basic understanding of science is a great advantage. Practical applied science is an extension of common sense. However, I have to say that having read a few features recently, my eyebrows have been so far up my forehead they were nearly touching the back of my neck. Some of the scientific explanations and “expertise” is phenomenal – especially as it is all well presented and confident guesswork (read: bullsh*t) much of the time.

Do we have to be that complicated. Really? Start at the problem, go to A then B then C. The chances are you will find the answer before you get to Z.

Sometimes I get lucky… sometimes I don’t. The luck with this one was that I was going to reel in 10 minutes earlier but didn’t. Other than that, it was well paid for
“Let me throw this one at you: what's 2 + ? = Exactly, you're buggered now!”

Some of the intricacies of some people’s ideas are great on paper but I think there is a great risk that we tend to over complicate a problem and look for a complicated answer to what is generally a simple problem. Common sense is needed, not wizardry.

I’m going to use a very good mate of mine Simon Crow as an example. He is an unbelievable angler that doesn’t baffle with bull, says it and does it like it is, and is arguably the hottest property on the carp market at the moment, be that at home or overseas. People often talk about Dave Lane, Darrell Peck and Terry Hearn, and Crowie is up there with them but on an international scale. All of their catch-rates are phenomenal, and I would be prepared to put Crowie against anyone (I see that he has recently banked Kitch, the incredibly sought after Northey Park Common on his third trip) but they all have one thing in common: they are no-nonsense anglers who fish hard, are very aware of what is going on around them, and who don’t complicate things. And that’s the key.

I am lucky enough to know a couple of inventors, and all of them say the same thing: most of the time the problem with inventing isn’t the invention; it’s finding the problem to solve. Sometimes that problem might be very complex, other times it might be very simple, but unless we know what the problem is, we have no chance of answering it. Let me throw this one at you: what’s 2 + ? = Exactly, you’re buggered now!

I like to catch them from all sorts of venues. Adaptability is key. Are you the sort of angler that adapts to the situation or do you adapt the situation to suit you?

You can have a crack at it and a lot of you might be thinking 4. That was too obvious… The question mark was actually 11 making 13… unlucky guess! However, as only I knew that, your chance of answering it was almost zero (unless you have a bit of a wide thinking mind like mine in which case… welcome on board… it’s going to be a great ride!)

I have a semi-scientific and fairly lateral mind. On occasion whilst that can appear somewhat confused, in the main it’s quite useful as it allows a lateral but fairly sensible approach to solving problems, be that when I was up on my hind legs in the courtroom in my previous life as a solicitor, running my business, or alternatively working out the best way of pulling a carp out of a pond.

An understanding of what is out there, the tools of the job and the ability of putting the two together means that you should be very successful. I hear anglers that talk about using the same method wherever they go and they are successful doing it. That might be the case but they are looking for the same set of circumstances every time. You can engineer success in two ways. One is adapting your approach to the circumstances in front of you, and the other is to make sure the field you are playing on suits your approach. Either way is a winner, but the more adaptable angler is, the better one in my eyes.

In the natural environment most of the questions have already been answered. We just need to know what the question is, put two and two together and come up with four.

Another dose of luck… or was it? 53lb on the first visit to a new water. Luck or a quick grasp of how to approach the water?

Weed is always a favourite. It’s the bain of many anglers’ lives and is also a problem for presentation, playing fish in and also disturbing presentation once you’ve found a spot as it can move. Standard rule of thumb: if you think there is weed there, double or treble the amount that you think there is. Don’t just ‘smash a bag in it and hope for the best’. Find out what type, how much, how long, and whether it’s a full covering. In a recent session I pulled in four different types of weed in two exploratory casts. That meant that the weed was up and down all over the place. I found a clear spot, but even though I was getting a good donk down there was still weed there. There’s a minute difference between the crack of a clean spot and the donk of a slightly weed covered one. A grappler will solve the problem as you can drag it back and see exactly what’s down there.

Other than bashing a Choddie over the top and hoping for the best, I’m always of the opinion that it’s important to know exactly what you are fishing over. If you don’t know that, how can you know what rig to use?

Do you know your weeds? This stuff was over 8ft long!
“You're a lucky bugger!”

Or: Good old logical common sense

A few people have commented to me this year that I’m a lucky bugger. That when I go I tend to catch, and quite often I catch a few decent ones in the process. To be honest I find that a little patronising.

Sadly I don’t get the chance to fish anywhere near as often as I would like. I do a lot of diving, writing, presenting work and all the other things that come with having to run a business and work rather than simply fishing for a living. But the luck comment makes me smile. It should be bad luck that has the biggest effect on success, not good luck.

The dictionary definition of luck is: success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own action

Try something different… Stretch the boundaries a little

For me, luck is making sure that when you go fishing you spend your time as wisely as possible, make sure everything is right, that you are in the right place at the right time, and more recently, as the OCD Iain Macmillan mentioned to me, “Why cast something out or leave it out there when it could be better?” He’s bang right. And I now follow that rule as well. You know what, all of this preparation, effort, attention to detail and of course natural skill (cough!), plus a sprinkling of dive experience and a few miles around the carp angling track makes me lucky… but then again, that sounds a little pretentious so what I’d prefer to say is that it’s down to a bit of good old logical common sense.

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